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The Roving Sportsman… Yes, You Can Do It Yourself!

Now that a successful hunt has come to an end and there is venison hanging on the meat pole let’s take a look at doing your own butchering and processing. Hopefully, you were able to keep the meat clean and cool after making that well-placed shot, and the meat has been able to hang and age a bit as long as the temperature was cool enough. Those are the first steps in ensuring really tasty venison for the table.

How you decide to butcher the deer and prepare the various cuts will also help determine just how tender and well-received the meat will be to all those who will partake of your venison meals. Let’s start with the butchering.

Butchering your own deer is not a difficult process, and it is rather rewarding to know that you have done it yourself. Once the deer has been skinned, simply separate the carcass by first removing the two front shoulders, then the two hind quarters.

The tenderest meat on the animal is that which lies along the spine — the backstraps and the inner tenderloins.

The backstraps lie on either side of the spine and start just above the hips and continue up past the shoulders and into the neck. Most folks trim the backstrap off at the shoulder, but looking closely, you can see that the same muscle group runs up into the neck, and this meat is just as tender as that which stops at the shoulder. A backstrap can be cut into 1 to 1 ¼ inch thick pieces (cross grain) and used as individual servings or cut into lengths of six to ten inches (depending on the number of people to serve). To maximize the flavor of this tender cut, it should be cooked over a grill or, preferably, over an open wood fire. Avoid overcooking any venison as it will tend to make the meat dry and tough. Ideally, cook venison to medium or medium rare.

Inside the ribcage and just forward of the hind legs are the two inner tenderloins (sometimes called the “fish” by area hunters — don’t ask me why; that is just what some folks call them!). On a mature deer, they are about a foot long and about 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Don’t overlook this pair of muscles, as they are extremely tender.

Lobes of meat or muscle groups in the hindquarters or “hams” can easily be separated and saved as roasts, sliced into steaks, or sliced thinly for sandwich meat. “Dried venison,” a version of “dried beef,” can be made from meat found in the hind quarters.

Shoulder and front leg meat generally can best be used either in making venison burger or cubed for canning. The neck meat is great for roasts or can also be used for burger or canning.

Once the major muscle groups have been removed for steaks or roasts, take time to go back over the entire carcass and recover any remaining scraps of meat for use in making burger meat or for use in canning.

Using venison meat to make venison burger is one of the best ways to stretch the meat for future use as it can be used in so many ways. Burgers on the grill or over an open wood fire, casseroles, chili, venison meatballs with spaghetti, or in a meatloaf are several popular ways to use venison burger.

Canning venison is an easy way to preserve the meat for future use and ends up being ideal for many uses. Once canned, the meat is extremely tender and can be used in a “beef stroganoff” served over rice or noodles, in soups or stews, or merely as a snack right out of a cold jar of the meat kept in the refrigerator!

It is even so tender that it can be spread onto bread, making a delicious and healthy sandwich.

To can venison, merely cut the meat into cubes about one-inch square. Trim away any fat or connective tissues. Fill a quart or pint canning jar to about ¾ of an inch from the top, and do not add water – the meat will make its own juice during the canning process. The preferred utensil for the canning is a pressure cooker.

There is much reward and good feeling of accomplishment when you go through the process of doing your own butchering and processing.

I hope you will try it and I am sure you will enjoy the results.